Jennifer Jones, ’04, ’11 (MBA), returned to Meredith to pursue her graduate degree after earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2004. Since that time, she has used the leadership and management skills she gained during both programs while working with her team members and clients as a Principal at Grant Thornton, one of the world’s leading international professional services firms.
As an undergraduate at Meredith, Jennifer completed an internship with a county finance department where she independently ran an analysis of the water and sewer department and ended up saving the department hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jennifer believes this internship and other experiences gained while at Meredith helped shape her work life.
“Each day, my team members and I work collaboratively to help make our clients’ control environments stronger in order to help make their operations more efficient and effective. I definitely utilize skills gained through my internship and case studies at Meredith to aid in these efforts,” Jennifer said.
She also believes that she models her leadership behaviors after the faculty she worked with as an undergraduate.
“Two words I would use to describe my relationships with the faculty would be nurturing and supportive, and I hope that the team members I work with would also use those words to describe our relationships,” Jennifer said. “I strive to ensure that all of my staff members know that I genuinely care about them, have their backs when difficult times arise, will always treat them with respect and loyalty, and will do whatever I can to help further them in their own careers.”
As someone passionate about lifelong learning, Jennifer decided to return to Meredith to pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA). While she had developed strong technical skills as an undergraduate, she felt she still had more to learn.
The MBA program challenged her to work more collaboratively, which she believes has been beneficial since the majority of her time spent at work includes working in a team environment. Jennifer said, “During my time in the MBA program I learned to rely not only on myself but also on others to complete their portions of our case studies and group presentations and to flex my own style to work more collaboratively with different personality types.”
Time management was also a challenge, as she worked full time while pursuing her MBA. “I had to become more organized and flexible and fine-tune my project management skills in order to balance a full-time job with attending classes,” Jennifer said. “Completing my graduate degree made me realize that I was determined and disciplined.”
During the MBA program, Jennifer also gained soft skills that helped develop and strengthen her management abilities, which has been beneficial to her as she transitioned first into management and then to being an owner of the firm.
Before the MBA program, Jennifer was very task-oriented and had never been in a management role, but the program helped her gain an appreciation of the soft skills she was lacking. Now, she manages a staff of more than 50. In an industry with a turnover rate upwards of 25 percent per year, Jennifer is most proud that she has not had any turnover on her team in over seven years.
“I credit my management style to skills I learned during the MBA program – how to listen with empathy, how to give and receive feedback, how to build trusted relationships, how to apply conflict management skills, and how to learn to interact and manage different personality types.”
Jennifer found that, while her experience as a graduate student at Meredith differed in some ways, the sense of community she felt at the College remained.
“Even though I did not spend as much time on campus as when I was an undergraduate, this difference was offset by being able to more closely connect with my professors and classmates,” Jennifer said. “In graduate school, everyone was in the business world, which made it easier to bond with each other and the professors over common experiences, interests, and life goals.”
Even seven years after graduating from the MBA program, Jennifer keeps in contact with some faculty members, walking dogs with one previous professor and receiving referrals for internship candidates from another.
“I would not trade that for the world – attending a college where the professors not only know me, but where we still remain friends years later.”
Jennifer feels that her time at Meredith helped her develop the skills that she now looks for in her own new hires. “When I come across a Meredith graduate's resume, I know that this woman will have the traits that are vitally important - having a strong executive presence, possessing analytical and critical thinking skills while also being able to relate to all levels of executive management, coupled with having strong written and verbal communication skills.”
Jennifer is grateful that she returned to Meredith to earn her MBA. “I appreciated my time in the program and still miss it today. I enjoyed learning from my professors and fellow classmates, whether it was in the classroom or over coffee preparing for our group presentations. Being around those like-minded individuals energized me.”
By Alex Rouch, ’20